Tiny and Purple

blog baby hat_4356I thought it would be a nice change to blog about something “nice”.

Last week a mom at my children’s school had a baby girl. I was lucky enough to see the sweet little baby at the grand age of two days old and thought wouldn’t it be fun to crochet a baby hat. As the gift has been delivered I can now post the project.

I  had some purple commercial yarn left in the (shrinking) stash,  a hook handy, and quickly with a search of the internet I had a pattern. Things went swimmingly until I reached the end of the project according to the instructions, looked at the hat and it appeared that the depth from crown to brim was way too short.

My next step was to go through our daughters’ bedroom trying to find a newborn sized doll. I found one, tried on the hat, and it was at least two inches too short. I then decided to search online to get a range of newborn hat measurements, only to find the circumference was fine, the depth was way off. I crocheted a couple more inches and then it looked right. Strangely, as I was finishing the hat one of my daughter’s baby hats appeared (I am guessing it had been in the doll clothes bin), so I was also able to measure the hat against a hat that I knew fit; that gave me confidence that it was the right size.

I could not believe  how quickly this hat was completed. The bulk of it was done while waiting to shoot a session and then while downloading files. I am thinking of making a bigger version for my girls, maybe even a naturally dyed cotton version.

Crocheting was a nice break from knitting up prototypes.

Now it is back to prototypes and samples……eight more to go before Easter break when I hope to take them out to the coast to show.

blog baby hat detail_4349

Crocheting and knitting by Debra Hunter

www.debra-hunter.com

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Spinning Scraps

Sometimes you wonder where an idea comes from, and then you wonder why you had to try to and make it work. This is one of those stories.

blog spinning scraps 3I have a ton of wool scraps from knitting projects. Short little pieces of yarn that I saw no point in throwing out. As the pieces accumulated I started to realize I really need to find a use for them. Some how I came up with the idea of re-spinning them. Perhaps a crazy idea, but I thought it was worth a go.

blog spinning scraps 4I started by separating the scraps into single strands. My two youngest were helpers with this.

blog spinning scraps 1Not having proper carders, or willing to make an investment for such a crazy experiment, we picked up two grooming brushes from the dollar store to help break down the wool. Two dollars was the right amount of investment for the project.

My daughter loved working on the yarn; she likes helping with everything.

blog spinning scraps 2The yarn scraps started to look kind of like fleece, so we continued.

blog spinning scraps 5At first we were “carding” all the colors together, and then we thought it would be nicer to have definite colors.

Then came the tricky part, spinning. I am a newby to spinning, very unexperienced, but I gave it a try. Some of the fibers were very short creating quite the challenge. It was VERY slow going, but it did resemble something like yarn. We’ll call it “art yarn”. I am thinking that perhaps we don’t need to break down the scraps as much and it still might spin. It appears the experiment will continue, an interesting recycling project.

blog spinning scraps 6

 

( I apologize for the recent sporadic blogging, I have been slaving away creating a website out of an existing blog  at www.debra-hunter.com . If you are visiting that blog, check out all the new additions in the top header, there is a lot to see!)

Woolisaurus – another knitted adventure

Late Sunday night my youngest, most huggy, kissy son came up to me and asked “Mama can you knit me a dinosaur?” I gave my standard “We’ll see.” response and it was left at that. By midnight I was thinking of how sweet he had been and thought why not, how hard can it be (a la “Top Gear”), and so I trekked off to the basement to find some yarn suitable for a dinosaur.

hand knit dinosaur

hand knit dinosaur

Turquoise seemed the right color for a stuffie knitted dinosaur for a preschooler. Not having a pattern I decided to start with the head and see how it went, knitting well past midnight. I figured if it went bad I could just abandon the project and my littlest one would be none the wiser, in fact he would probably have forgotten about his request by morning.

The head went well and I even managed to get a nice curve to it, and of course then I just had to see if the neck would work. By 2 am I had winged it enough to have a recognizable dinosaur head, neck and top of body.

blog woolisaurus_2656In the morning he awoke to see the started project on the kitchen table and the excitement kicked in. This dinosaur was going to be knit….today. Our son ran to get his huge multi-color dinosaur book, plopped himself down next to me, and opened the book of cartoon dinosaurs to be used for reference. After a quick discussion regarding the fact that this dinosaur was never going to be a triceratops (ever), he found a picture of the type of dinosaur his stuffie could be.

Sitting next to me, my son was the foreman. He told me how to knit the tummy, the number of legs the dinosaur needed and how long his tail should be. We did have our creative differences over the tail; I convinced him some trendy yellow stripes would look better than the red and green Christmas colors he wanted. We knit all morning and all afternoon until the dinosaur  was knit, stuffed and assembled. There was NO downtime. Looking a little under dressed we decided he needed a wooly scarf and that was knit this evening while playing (and losing) a game of Ticket to Ride.

We have named our dinosaur Woolisaurus….what else do you name a wooly dinosaur!? He measures 18 inches long and 6.5 inches high, and he has been hugged a lot already.

Being a patternless project, I probably should have written down what I was knitting as I did it, as I have now had more dinosaur requests from our other children. Maybe it is best this dinosaur is one of a kind, maybe that makes him even more special.

( www.thehuntergroup.ca for other knit items…..just not dinosaurs!)

Going for a Spin

Sometimes the Classified Ads in the newspaper provide new experiences you don’t expect. Back in the summer my dad came across an ad in the paper, “bags of wool for sale, $20.00”. He knew I had been doing all sorts of knitting projects and thought I might be interested. It did seem interesting. We called up the seller and arranged to buy a bag. She didn’t know much about the wool, she was selling it for her sister who had bought it from a neighbor in rural Alberta. Genuine mystery wool. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to use it, maybe felt it or worse case use it for stuffing……well a lot of stuffing as it was a huge bag the size of a garbage bag stuffed tight.

turkish spindleInitially I used the wool to stuff a few mini crochet toys, this didn’t make a dent in the bag of wool. Then one day in late August I took a trip to a woolen mill and in the shop  Turkish spindles. were being sold. I had watched a few tutorials on-line of spinning with them, so I decided to risk the $25 and buy a spindle and see if it would work with the mystery wool.

dyed fleece With plans to try spinning the mystery wool I started popping bits of fleece in random dye pots as I dyed yarn or fabric. There was no real plan, I just thought it would be more fun to try and spin the wool if it was colored.

spinning on a turkish spindleI will admit it took a little to get the hang of spinning the fleece. The hook on the spindle gave me some trouble. I actually took the good old X-Acto knife to the hook to allow it to grab the yarn better; I may still have to carve out the hook portion a little more. The first tiny ball of yarn took forever, but as I spun more and more it went a lot quicker and easier.

blog spinning 3I spun seven small balls in total, enough to give me a taste of spinning with the spindle.

plying the hand spun yarnThe next step was to ply the yarns together. I was really looking forward to seeing the colors combine. The concept of plying was easy, the only issue is that the hook doesn’t seem to hold the yarn in place very well and keeps slipping off. I tried all sorts of fancy tying, winding and twisting, I even briefly attempted holding the yarn in place with an elastic band (did not work!), but the yarn kept slipping off.

plyed hand spun yarnI am continuing to persevere with the plying. The mixed colors look great and will be so fun to knit up. I am wondering if I need to pick up a separate spindle for plying, perhaps a spindle that has a metal hook instead of a carved wooden hook. I am thinking that may work more successfully with plying such a chunky yarn. Still, I think it has been a fairly successful first time spinning experience with mystery wool.

Ready to Full (if you knit you’ll understand!)

ready to fullI have been working on a “fulled” project. In this case it is knitted items that are then partially felted through the process of hot water, cold water and agitation. The process shrinks the item and makes it quite dense and compressed.

I have discovered that there seems to be no science or guarantee with fulling, quite honestly it is one big science experiment that will drive you insane if you let it. For example, I have now tested 4 different yarns plus about 6 different needle sizes, a couple of different wash/agitation methods and tested dyeing before fulling and after. This has been a project of testing for almost a year. This has produced numerous failed test swatches, that are now known as “Barbie blankets”. Yes indeed the Barbie doll house has been furnished nicely with my rejects (but our daughters are thrilled!).

I think I have finally figured what works best. Strangely the knit is so big and sloppy in the beginning, yet this is the combination that shrinks down the tightest and most compact. The best wash/agitation method turned out to be the washing machine which is awfully convenient as our household with five children means the washing machine is ALWAYS running.

The funny thing about this whole process of figuring out fulling is the fourth combination I ever did was the one that gave the best results. Somehow I was convinced it could be better so I kept knitting and fulling more and more versions and only seeing disappointment. I guess there is something to be said for the saying “quit while you are ahead”.

Prep Day

The downside to any creative pursuit is the prep work. Prep work is not fun, it often feels like it gets in the way of “doing” something, but in the long run it is needed to create a better quality product.

I moan about prep work a lot. I don’t like to do lighting tests in the studio (but I do), I don’t enjoy stretching watercolor paper, and I am often tempted to dye yarn and fabric without prepping it properly but I know in the long run I will regret it so I do the proper prep work.

priming panels

priming panels

The least painful of the prep work to be done today was priming some panels for painting. It was just a couple of panels, so not a huge outlay of time. I am challenging myself to learn to paint smaller and enjoy it. I like working big, but not small so much, so in a effort to step out of my comfort zone I have prepped a few small panels to tackle.

 tied yarn

tied yarn

The next item to tackle was prepping yarn, thread and fabric for dyeing. The yarn and thread is the trickiest. I pre-plan out the colors I eventually want,  then the rough lengths I require, and finally color code with scrap yarn what each skein is destined to be. Add in two different yarns that seem kind of similar when wet and you realize what a life saver color coding is. I always dye in VERY small batches with specific ideas in mind so that I don’t have a stash of yarns just sitting there.

The threads are for a piece I am currently stitching plus a couple that are in the back of my mind. I need some greens which means dyeing the threads yellow and then a dip in the indigo vat.

scour and mordant

scour and mordant

Speaking of the indigo vat, I decided that thread was not a good enough reason to get it going again so I decided I might as well scour and mordant some cotton fabric too, after all everything else had already been prepped in this pot. A few smaller pieces of cotton were popped in as was a cotton scarf  all hemmed up. I want to play with some stitched resists mixed with indigo dyeing.

 tied yarn drying

hung out to dry

After scouring and mordanting and cooling (which took forever!) the yarns and threads and fabric are hung out to dry. Perhaps this evening some yarn will hit the dye pot; it is more than one day’s worth of dyeing. Lac, cutch madder, logwood, pomegranate, marigold and turmeric (and possibly tansy) are all on the “to dye” list. The indigo will have to wait until I get the stitch resist done. Lots to do, but at least the prep work is done for now.

 

Hunter Photographics & Studio H
art, photography and handmades by Debra Hunter

www.thehuntergroup.ca
www.debrahunter.wordpress.com

A little bit of whimsy…..

 

crochet snowy owl

A little, yet whimsical , post for today.

This little guy is all the rage in our house at the moment. He is a two inch high crocheted snowy owl. I thought it would be fun for my eldest daughter to learn to crochet making little stuffies, so I thought I would make one up in advance just to see where the problem areas might be. I think it was around the time I had the head and half the body done that everyone was shouting “Make me one, make me one!” This was followed by “Can I have a seal, can I have a dolphin,…..etc.”

crochet snowy owlOur little snowy owl is a real hit. A little bit of whimsical fun.

crochet snowy owlAs you can imagine another owl is in the works as I write. The next little friend is being made out of the wool yarn milled right here in Alberta.

 

Handmade by Debra Hunter.
Red Deer, Alberta

www.thehuntergroup.ca

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Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy, busy, busy is the best way to describe things at the moment. We have recently done a quick jaunt to the coast, and it seems as soon as my feet hit the snow back in Alberta I have spent day after day over the dye pot. I love dyeing, so that is a good thing, and you can actually keep yourself warm over a dye pot (which is even better!). I have been dyeing up wool yarns, and knitting them as soon as they are dry. I am working on a project. The best discovery of the week is lac; this dye give beautiful reds, I love it. More dyeing and knitting ahead for this week. It is a good project to settle in with for the winter.

Etsy’s Evil Turn

I came across this little news tidbit on the internet last night. An insignificant little news story dated October 1, 2013 on www.bloomberg.com discussing how “Etsy sellers can now use factories for handmade goods”. My first reaction was disgust, my second was “I am not surprised”.

This morning as I reread the story I felt I just had to comment on this situation.

etsy

Now to begin with, I must say I am NOT a seller on Etsy. I have in fact spent the last six months researching their site trying to decide whether to launch an online store with them or not. I have spent hundreds of hours trying to figure out whether selling with them would be a benefit or detrimental. Clearly, after reading this article, “detrimental” is what the outcome would be if I was to set up a shop on Etsy.

Before I launch into why I feel having an online store with Etsy would be detrimental, I want to discuss why I feel so strongly about this turn of events. I am an artist and craftsman, and being involved in this type of pursuit I also follow the endeavors and careers of other artists, craftsmen and artisans. These are good, hardworking and highly skilled people who believe in fine craftsmanship and producing unique product by hand. Many in this same group of people have shops on Etsy, they have worked hard to create their online businesses, they have put their faith and trust in Etsy, and now they are about to be screwed over royally by that same company……Etsy.

“Why are craftsmen about to be screwed over royally?” you may ask. Or you may ask “Why would selling on Etsy be detrimental?” Well pull up a chair and I will present the situation in as a concise a manner as possible. True craftsmen, artisans and artists produce pieces they are proud of. They spend time planning out their projects, they choose the best materials to use, some choose to make products that put little strain on the earth, and they make their products by HAND. Yes indeed, a real live person makes the product. Making products by HAND takes time. Choosing quality materials or materials kind to the earth costs money. A truly handcrafted item will cost more to produce. What Etsy has done in their latest move has essentially taken true craftspeople and artists and made them compete with cheap mass-produced crap produced on foreign shores. Think about it, how can a mom in Ohio knitting hand spun, hand knit scarves from wool from her own sheep possibly compete with “hand-crafted ” scarves rolling off the factory machines in Vietnam. She can’t. Her Etsy shop is doomed.

yarn

When you Google search Etsy this is the description that comes up “Buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art and supplies on Etsy, the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.” however digging into the “Help” page on their website they state: “Handmade items are designed and created by the shops that sell them. Because transparency is paramount on Etsy, we ask sellers to publicly list all members of their shops and, if pre-approved, any manufacturers involved in creating their items.” The article talks of this up coming  “new policy”, however reading the fine print it seems having “manufacturers”  has been going on for quite sometime.

But beyond fine print, or even the Etsy website, a little snooping around the internet told the story months ago. A few months ago I was researching the price point on Etsy for a product similar to one I was working on. The product, working as fast as one can against a stop watch, takes 50 minutes to complete (I know, I timed it one night….however one could never produce consistently at that speed, but it gave me a base for how long it took to complete the product). A similar product was selling on Etsy for $2.00 USD. Warning bells went off in my head so I visited the shop owner’s website, which linked me through to their blog in which a recent post talked about how they had just shipped off a thousand of these items to a shop somewhere in the U.S.A……yes 1,000. Now let’s do the math, they are selling them for $2.00 each but they take 50 minutes to make by hand at breakneck speed. They are shipping out 1000 units, which if handmade would have taken 833.33 hours to produce, or 104.16 eight hour work days, or 20.83 five day work weeks…..to make $2000 USD (obviously not all profit). Clearly these items are not being “handmade”…….or at least not being “handmade” by any North American or any human being living above the poverty line……anywhere.

handmade

Whose hands are the manufacturing these goods? Sweatshop labour or child labor?

So we have already established that it is impossible to compete at a price point with goods that are obviously mass-produced, however lets continue to examine his new policy brought forth by Etsy. In the story on www.bloomberg.com it is stated that “Etsy will try to ensure that goods sold on the site still meet its definition of “handmade.”” So if one is to assume a “handmade” item is actually made by “hand”, whose hands are making them? Are we to assume Etsy is perhaps endorsing sweatshop manufacturing and child labor? That is the ONLY way that an item that takes 50 minutes to manufacture can be sold retail for $2.00. Remember that to sell retail for $2.00 the Etsy seller is taking into account all the labour, materials, shipping and any taxes and other business operating costs in that figure…..PLUS PROFIT. What is the person making this item by hand actually receiving as pay…..perhaps 4 cents….I don’t know….but it sure isn’t much.

4 cents

Sweatshop pay…for a day….a month… or perhaps a year….for making “unique and handmade” goods.

Now if Etsy protest that they do not endorse sweatshop manufacturing and child labor, what is the other option….only one…..that they are LYING to the consumer. Nice. The only other way items could be made en-mass and cheaply is by a machine. Etsy flies behind the slogan of “Buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art and supplies on Etsy, the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.” So if it isn’t a sweatshop it is a lie and the products are made by machine which means “handmade ” is all a lie.

We get to pick which wonderful quality of production Etsy shops will now choose to use….. sweatshop manufacturing and child labor…..or machine manufactured (a lie if one believes an item is “handmade”). What a choice. Pretty much the new policy of Etsy means you are now shopping online for the same products you buy at Wal-Mart but they are lying to the consumer as to how the products are “handmade”.

Etsy also proudly states on their “About” page that “Etsy is a marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods. Our mission is to re-imagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.”. Seriously, how can mass-produced items be “unique”? How can sweatshop production “build a more fulfilling and lasting world.”? Honestly.

 etsy about page

One wonders how they can honestly have this printed on the Etsy site.

Etsy’s new policy is so harmful it is not even funny. It will continue to misrepresent itself as a company providing “handmade” items. Lying to consumers who think they are supporting true craftspeople. Cheating consumers who think they  are truly buying handmade items. Robbing actual craftsmen of a living as they will not be able to compete at a price point, while the cheap products are being misrepresented as unique and handmade. Etsy holds NO value for TRUE craftsmen, artisans or artists. Etsy is a tragic company.

true artisans burned by etsy

True craftsmen and artists burned by Etsy’s new policy.

I feel lucky that I held off setting up an Etsy shop. Sometimes procrastination pays off. I do, however worry for the future of  those who honestly make handmade products and have Etsy stores. How will they compete on price point? How will they ever be believed by a consumer that they ACTUALLY MAKE THEIR PRODUCT? This latest move is a complete devaluation of the true artist, the true artisan and the true craftsperson.

I hope the sellers and customers will take a stand on this latest policy. I hope they will become vocal and out the company for the fraud they are. “Handmade” goods are made by hand not machines, and sweatshops are not acceptable.

I value true artists.

I value true artisans.

I value true craftspeople.

I hope others will also support these people who honestly make their product by hand, and shun the frauds under the new Etsy policy who will manufacture their products en-mass through machine or sweatshops.

Eco-print Experiment Success

I expect the occasional reader is going to look at this post and say “Huh?”, shake their head, and move on, but I am pretty excited about the outcome of this latest eco print.

madder marigold rose leaf eco-printI have been toying with mixing naturally dyed cloth with eco-printing. There have been some disasters and disappointments along the way. Sometimes an idea on paper doesn’t exactly work in the dye pot. This time I finally achieved a useable result. The fabric is dyed with marigold grown in my garden and madder, plus eco-printed with rose leaves from my front garden. The fabric is 100% cotton and measures 22 inches by 45 inches, so a decent sized piece of fabric to work with.

madder marigold rose leaf eco-printInterestingly, when I unbundled the piece there were tons of little spots that seemed to resist the dyeing and eco-printing in the very centre of the dots. I have no idea what created the dots, but I guess that is the joy of eco-printing, never knowing exactly what the final result will be.

This should be an interesting piece to turn into “something” in the coming winter months.